Christian, Grow Up!

Bible Book: Galatians  3
Subject: Maturity; Growth

Christian, Grow Up!

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor, www.pastorlife.com

Introduction

Today I am going to speak largely to Christians - to those who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The scripture today deals with the Church in Galatia and the immaturity that had developed among the believers there.

In the passage before us today Paul was writing to say, "Christian, Grow Up!" You might see a four-year old child sitting on the floor pouting because he has been denied to go outside a play. But, you'd be shocked to see a 40 year-old man sitting in the floor sucking his thumb because his wife didn't want him to go play golf on her birthday. Maturity is visible and important, especially in one's spiritual life. Too often we see Christian acting like children - simply never growing up in Christ. That is what Paul is dealing with in our scripture for today.

Immaturity is widespread among Christians in every generation, but especially so in this twenty-first century. This spiritual malady needs special attention from the pulpit. We note that it is addressed several times in the New Testament.

Jesus revealed how the Pharisees and Sadducees acted like children when he used the parabolic statement saying, "We have piped unto you and you have not danced, we have mourned unto you and you have not lamented"" (Matthew 11:17). In other words, Jesus indicated that the religious leaders of his day were playing church, or acting like children on a spiritual level.

In 1 Corinthians, chapter 3, Paul told the Corinthians that he could not speak to them as adults, but rather had to write to them as babies because they had not grown up spiritually. Paul also indicated in his letter to the churches in Galatia that they had not only failed to grow up in Christ but had regressed - gone back to acting like babies instead of being mature believers. They were acting like children and after they had shown that they had trusted Jesus long enough to know better.

When I was a boy growing up in North Carolina, my mom or dad said to me, on too many occasions, "Michael, you know better than to do what you have done." What they were saying to me was simple - I was old enough and had been instructed enough to know that what I had done was immature.

In what way were the Galatians acting childlike on a spiritual level? The Galatian Christians were leaving the liberty of grace and returning to the bonds of the law. They were becoming legalistic though they were supposed to be living under the grace provided by Christ.

There are two inherent dangers in the Christian life and both are symptoms of spiritual immaturity.

1. Rebellion is Present

One is rebellion. A child has a rebellious nature against authority from the beginning of life, but as the child becomes a young adult he or she ought to know better than to fall on a floor and cry like a baby.

2. Responsibility is Missing

Secondly, a child sometimes fails to take responsibility. As we mature, we learn to do our homework without being told by a parent. We learn to make up our bed and put our clothes in the closet rather than throwing them on the floor. I see some of you ladies looking at your husbands - maybe some of them haven't matured to the "closet and clothes" yet. Maturity requires action.

Who among us has not seen a child fall crying and complaining while the mother is trying to shop? The child screams wildly and swings at his mom in protest. When I was growing up, if I had done that, my mom would have taken care of it on the spot and my dad would have applied special treatment to a strategic "spot" once mom told hiim what I had done. Sadly, some Christians act like spoiled children - even in the church.

Immaturity can be described as the state of not yet obtaining the level of mature actions and reactions which are justified at any given stage in life. Christians should grow up into mature believers. It is an immature Christian who is judgmental of others and feels he is serving God best when he has a long face and is obeying a long list of rules and regulations. It is also an immature believer who must be constantly corrected from wrong doing or chased down because he is absent from his place of responsibility.\

One of the signs of responsibility and maturity is a willingness to take directions and then carry them out without constant supervision. The student who goes from high school to college learns this lesson quickly. The college professor seldom warn students of an upcoming exam more than once. Homework assignments are often given and then not mentioned again. The mature and wise student will do the work without the professor acting like a nursemaid. The same can be said about the mature child of God. When a Christian is mature, he or she will carry out God's work with faithfulness and gladness without someone having to continually providing reminders. And then, when the work is done, the mature Christian will not demand a lot of attention for the service rendered.

The Galatian Christians had fallen into a trap of setting up rules, then praising those who kept them. While doing this they believed that the rule-keeping won God's approval. They had gone back to acting like children in a classroom at school. Assignments were given, monitors took names of those who failed to do the assignments and this was supposed to please the teacher. That may work in the sixth grade, but it should be unnecessary in a college English class. The same should be said about us in God's work. We are to grow up into mature believers who attend, tithe, pray, witness, worship and serve out of joy and not obligation.

What is necessary for a believer to serve without turning it into an obligation? What can cause a Christian to worship without it becoming a duty? What can assist a believer in growing up so that he is mature in the Lord and that his obedience pleases God because it is a matter of joy and not simply a duty? That is what Paul shares in the passage we are considering today.

Paul shares pictorial, vivid examples of one theme. That theme is the appreciation of what Christ has done for us and the glorious position we occupy due to His grace and mercy. Paul appeals to us to grow up based on our appreciation of these realities. Note four examples of God's grace toward the Christian.

I. The Prison Example

Galatians 3:24; 4:1-5

Paul states that the Christian was once held in a prison - a prison called the Law. The Law had us judged and bound because we could not keep it and fully obey it. When you are guilty of breaking the Law, you are bound and taken into custody. Who can forget the graphic video coverage of people being thrown up against a vehicle or wall by a policeman? The perpetrator is handcuffed and hauled off to lock-up. That is what the Law of right and wrong does to us. If we live under the Law, we are living bound up in chains.

Our escape from the prison of the Law was made possible by the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross. He paid the price to release us from the shackles and chains of the Law. In fact, he wore our chains to the death chamber, died in our place, and then broke the chains by coming back from the dead. Therefore, the Christian is no longer under the Law. Being saved through Christ means that we are free from the Law. And if the Son makes you free, you are free indeed.

If we go back to legalism or rebellion after we are saved, we are putting the chains back on our hands and feet. How foolish. How sad. How unnecessary.

The songwriter penned,

"Free from the law, O happy condition.

Jesus has died and there is remission

Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall,

Christ has redeemed us once for all!" (Philip Bliss, 1873)

If we appreciate what Christ did for us, we will not put the chains of the Law back on our lives. We will not rebel. We will not become legalistic. We will rather rejoice in Him and serve Him with gladness.

Now don't read into what is taught in the scripture today as a legal right for us to live as Christians any way we choose. We do not come under grace and then go on willingly committing sin. When we receive Jesus, He is our Lord. We want to live for Him and to please Him. We don't do this because it makes us right with Him, but because through His sacrifice and grace we have already been made right with Him. It is not the Law of God that shackles us, but the love of God that compels us, as we are told in 2 Corinthians 5.

So, we have been released from the prison of the Law. Now, note another example which Paul gives us ...

II. The Pedagogue Example

Galatians 3:25-27

This pedagogue example is one which needs some explanation in order for us to understand it. In the biblical days it was the custom for a well-to-do family to hire a pedagogue or tutor to care for the moral and physical welfare of a child. The child was watched over by this educator or pedagogue each hour of the day. The child did not leave the house without the pedagogue being present. When the child became an adult, the pedagogue was removed and the child became a son. This was symbolized by a change of clothing - a change in garments.

Paul uses the idea of Christ being our garment in Galatians 3:27. We have been freed of the pedagogical task of the Law. You see, the Law was our pedagogue - our tutor. The Law bound us to it like a slave before we were saved. The child under a pedagogue was no better than a slave until he became mature. He could go no where and do nothing which his guardian did not allow. In that same manner, before we were saved the Law was our guardian. We rebelled and the Law humiliated us.

Paul explains to us that the Law - the guardian - led us to Christ because the Law revealed that we could never be made right before God through it.. One might say that this pedagogue drove us to Christ, for we knew that we could not possibly obey all that the Law demanded of us. In Christ we moved from being children under a gardian to becoming sons and daughters in God's family. How neat is that? The Law, our pedagogue, brought us to a point of seeing that we were incorrigable sinners - that drove us to Christ - that caused us to flee to the arms of Jesus for help, forgiveness and redemption. He forgave us through His shed blood. His perfect life was given to us as a gift. We did not earn it. We could not earn it. Only His love could provide it.

The Law cannot change us into what we should be. For example, the law of our state may tell us that it is illegal to exceed the posted speed limit in our automobile; however, the law does not keep us from speeding. The law may catch us in the act of speeding and it may cost us plenty when that happens, but the law itself does not prevent us from doing something that is illegal. In the same way, God's Law told us what was forbidden, but it did not keep us from committing the forbidden acts. The more we tried to live under the Law, the more frustrated we became. But, as Christians, we fled to Christ who forgave us and freed us from the Law. Now, if we are mature in Christ, we live in the joy of serving Him rather than under the terrible restrictions of the Law. We do not wish to break the Law because we are now in love with Jesus. That is the idea Paul is presenting to us.

Anyone who does go back to legalism or resorts to rebellion against God, is acting like a little child acts. He is showing his immaturity before God and all the other believers. The mature Christian does not use grace as an excuse for going on in sin, nor does the mature Christian go back to seeking God's approval by doing good things. The mature Christian loves Jesus because Jesus first loved Him. The mature Christian loves Jesus because Jesus first loved her. We serve out of devotion to Him. The Law can never make service joyful. Sin cannot make life joyful, except for a brief season. But knowing, loving and serving Jesus provides joy unspeakable that is full of glory!

Now, Paul goes to show us ...

III. The Personal Example

Galatians 4:6-7

Paul now turns to a very personal example. He states that we are sons of God and now we can say, "Abba, father". This may not seem important, but it is very important. Paul is showing that we are not serving a God whom we fear but we serve and love our Heavenly Father who gave His Son for us and has placed His Spirit within us. He has made Himself accessible to us. He has given us the key to the throne room. He has said, "Son, daughter, drop by anytime and talk with me." He does not want us to be like the brother of the prodigal son who served his father but did so legalistically. He would rather you come to Him in a personal, loving way, even if it is to confess some wrong you have done. The boy, in Luke 15, who came home from the pig sty was welcomed by the Father because he was acting like a son. Note how the father treated the prodigal when he returned and repented - the father is described as falling on his neck of his son and kissing him. The Heavenly Father does not want legalism or rebellion, He longs to hold you in a loving relationship.

Any Christian who appreciates just how good God has been, and how He has made Himself so available to us will want to grow up into a mature and loving Christian. He will seek to act in a mature way toward the loving Heavenly Father.

Finally, Paul reveals ...

IV. The Praise Examples

Galatians 4:15-16

A. The Rejoicing

What has happened to your joy? Oh, Christian, do you see the meaning of this question? Paul was remembering the great days he had with the saints in the churches in Galatia. They had praised God together, shared testimonies, loved the Lord and one another with a fervent emotion. The Word of God was not drudgery, it was a delight. It was not a chore to serve Jesus, it was a celebration! When Paul had been with them, giving to the Lord's work had not been a burden but a blessing. Paul reminds them of that time when he was with them before he was ill. His eyes were afflicted with a dreadful disease which caused white pus to form and run from his eyes. It affected his vision and certainly made him unattractive to look upon. But Paul reminds them that they never were bothered by that when he was there before them. In fact, he says that they were ready to take out their own eyes and give them to him. Now that is true mature Christian love! Great sacrifice did not bother them. They did not worry over the matter of obedience, they willingly threw themselves into the work, walk and worship of God with joy. Now Paul shows them that their joy is gone. They are now going through the motions of service under the Law rather than under grace.

When I was a high school student I hated to study. I hated to read. I hated to go to school. To me the work was a duty. But by the time I got to college I had changed. Study was fun! I loved to read. I couldn't get enough. I know you will think I'm crazy but I used to hate to see night come because that meant I had to stop studying and go to bed. If I did not have my wife as a witness to that fact, I would be afraid to tell you that lest you go away assured that I am stretching the truth. Now which do you think I did better - the work in high school or the studies in college? You guessed it! My work in college excelled head and shoulders above the work I did in high school. Paul calls upon the Galatian Christians to stop doing service for God as a duty, and he calls on them to return to serving God as a joy and delight.

Many Christians miss the joy of the Christian life. I am reminded of a small group of Christians meeting in a church on Sunday night. Most Sunday morning attendees were not present at the evening service. The preacher called on a man in the congregation to lead in prayer that night and he prayed something like this. "O Lord, we are here tonight to worship you. Bless us here in this Sunday night servuce while all those other people are out there having fun." My soul, what a sad prayer. Is it drudgery to serve the Lord? It seems that for the man praying that evening he considered his presence in God's House to be duty while he thought of others not present as having 'fun.' Sadly, that is true of many immature believers. Let us praise God with a true heart of joy.

B. The Remembrance

He even tells us how. He tells them to remember that they were once in prison, bound and held for the death chamber, but Jesus set them free. We must remember that once we were led by the Law everywhere we went. Here and there were signs that said, "Don't do this and don't do that." But, Jesus saved us and now we are free of those signs representing the Law. We are free to serve Him in love and joy.

Conclusion

One of the best stories I ever read to illustrate this point came from Harry Ironside. Dr. Ironside told of a Navaho Indian who went with him once on a trip. Once they arrived at the conference a discussion broke out as to the difference in the law and grace. The Navaho Indian stood to give an explanation of the Law and Grace. The Indian - the Native-American - said he saw a sign in a certain city that said, "No Spitting Here." He told how he looked and saw where many had been spitting and so he too spat there as well. He then told how he came to California and was ushered into a beautiful home. The carpets were beautiful and the appointments so lovely. He was left alone and he said he noted that there was no sign saying, "No Spitting Here." Yet he looked all around and noticed that no one had been spitting there. He realized that no sign was needed in that place, because the mere beauty of the surroundings prohibited anyone from spitting there. He said that the same was true for the person living in a right relationship with Christ. We need no signs, no laws, because His beauty makes us want to do what is right. (H.A. Ironside, Illustrations of Bible Truth, Moody Press, 1945, pp. 40-42.)

The fact that God has made Himself so available to us leads us to look up and say, "Abba, Father." The term is actually closer to our term "Daddy." God wants us to be happy. He desires for us to have joy unspeakable and full of glory. Dear Christian, let us renew our love for Jesus. Let us thank Him for His grace and love, and let us say, "I will serve Him, because I love Him!" We can be mature believers, if we love Him and rejoice in His grace.

Let me add, in closing, that no one can be free of the Law or its raw, horrible and eternal consequences without Jesus Christ. The chains of the Law in this life become eternal chains in the life to come for those who reject God's saving grace in Christ. Come to Jesus today. He loved you enough to die in your place. You do not have to be gripped by the Law, nor do you have to face the Judge of eternity with your sins. Come to the Lord today and accept Him as your Savior and your Lord. It is a decision you will appreciate in this life and the life to come, for only He can give you joy and that more abundantly.